The 10 Biggest Steals in NFL Draft History

From Tom Brady to Jason Kelce to Brock Purdy, Athlon Sports revisits the greatest bargains ever in the NFL draft.


While the 32 teams wheel, deal and identify talent, fans and pundits follow along with sharp opinions. Franchises look for game-changers in the early rounds. But it’s often late-round picks which determine the success or failure of a team’s draft class.


Tom Brady and Brock Purdy are two of the most famous steals in draft history, having been selected in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively. But they are just two of the future stars who initially languished on draft boards. Indeed, NFL history is dotted with athletes who debuted as sleepers but developed into superstars.



With all that in mind, Sports Fury picks the 10 biggest steals in NFL draft history.



10. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor (tie)

Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor contributed mightily to a Seattle Seahawks defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL each season from 2012 through ’15.




The Seattle Seahawks built one of the most formidable secondaries in NFL history in the early 2010s with the fabled Legion of Boom. In doing so, Seattle struck gold in the fifth round in consecutive drafts, picking safety Kam Chancellor in 2010 and identifying cornerback Richard Sherman the following year.



Combined with first-round pick Earl Thomas at safety and undrafted free agent Brandon Browner at corner, the LOB wreaked havoc on opposing receivers for years. Sherman and Chancellor were selected to four Pro Bowls each as members of the Seahawks. Seattle allowed the fewest points in the NFL for four consecutive seasons from 2012 through ’15 and won Super Bowl XLVIII to cap the 2013 season.


9. Brock Purdy

The San Francisco 49ers took a flier on Brock Purdy at the end of the 2022 NFL draft, and he wound up supplanting Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo atop the depth chart.




The San Francisco 49ers seemed to be committed to Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, as their starting quarterback heading into the ’22 season. Nevertheless, it pays to have options in the QB room, and the 49ers took a flier on Iowa State signal-caller Brock Purdy with the 262nd and final pick of the ’22 draft.


Mr. Irrelevant was thrust into the starting role late in the ’22 season after injuries to Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, and he firmly seized the opportunity by going 5-0 down the stretch with 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. He led the 49ers to the NFC championship game and cemented himself as the team’s franchise QB moving forward. In Purdy’s second pro season, he led the 49ers to Super Bowl LVIII, where they lost in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs.


8. Jason Kelce

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce gestures to fans after his last NFL game, a playoff loss at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 15.



Jason Kelce was not a coveted prospect ahead of the 2011 NFL draft, even though the onetime walk-on linebacker became a standout on the University of Cincinnati’s offensive line. Although Kelce didn’t move to center until his senior season, the Eagles took a chance on him with the 191st overall pick.


Kelce impressively won the Eagles’ starting center job as a rookie and went on to become a six-time first-team All-Pro selection. He helped Philadelphia win its first Super Bowl championship in the 2017 season and later finished his career with a franchise-record streak of 156 consecutive starts.


Next stop? The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He becomes eligible for enshrinement in 2029.


7. Mike Webster

Mike Webster never missed a start during the decade spanning the 1976 and ’85 seasons with the Steelers.



The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1974 draft is widely acknowledged as the best in NFL history. The team landed four future Hall of Famers in its first five picks: USC receiver Lynn Swann, Kent State linebacker Jack Lambert, Alabama A&M wideout John Stallworth and Wisconsin center Mike Webster.


Webster was the biggest steal of the bunch, having been tapped with pick No. 125 overall. He developed into one of the league’s toughest players and arguably the greatest center in the history of the sport. Webster was named to nine Pro Bowls and five first-team Al……

Gideon Canice

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